Senior year of high school is normally marked by iconic rites of passage like senior prom and graduation, but for 19-year-old Ilijah Barron, senior year has also been marked by a fight against bone cancer.
The senior from Syracuse, New York, never imagined that he would be spending his senior year in and out of the hospital, but thanks to his mother, the hospital staff and some school friends, he didn’t have to miss out on his senior prom.
In the days leading up to his senior prom at Liverpool High School, Barron wasn’t feeling well. His mother, Nelisha, said that making plans and buying a suit to go to the affair raised his spirits.
But two days before the event was scheduled, his pain caused him to go to the hospital and it was clear that he wouldn’t be able to attend the prom.
“That broke him into pieces,” his mom told The Post-Standard. “I decided I would try with everything in me to make him happy so he wouldn’t miss that moment. I decided it was going to happen!”
Nelisha received permission from the hospital staff to throw a prom at the hospital and quickly enlisted some of her son’s friends for help, including the staff at the hospital.
Kathleen Paice Froio with the Upstate Medical University told Liftable, a section of The Western Journal, that it was clear to his specialist that he was bummed about not being able to make the big event.
“Elizabeth Kinsley, a certified child life specialist at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital in Syracuse, said at first Ilijah acted like missing his senior ball was no big deal,” Froio wrote.
“Kinsley told Ilijah and his mom that the hospital would help put together a plan for pre-ball pictures and dinner for his friends, and Ilijah was excited.”
“For decorations I asked if he had specific colors in mind,” Kinsley asked the young man. “He quickly said he wanted the room to match his date’s dress and showed me a picture. That’s just who Ilijah is. He is thoughtful and considerate. I wanted this event to be great for him because he is someone who deserves good things in his life.”
On June 15, 2019, the 11th floor of the Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital was transformed into a traditional senior prom, complete with a photo booth, dancing and a sit-down BBQ dinner.
The 19-year-old was moved to tears once he saw what his mom and friends had done for him.
“I loved it,” he said later. “It was the most special moment ever. Having everybody there, all my friends.”
“And it was my first high school dance.”
After the incredible surprise, Barron was worried that he wouldn’t be released from the hospital in time to attend his graduation ceremony, but his mom wrote on Instagram later, “God showed up and showed out.”
He was not only able to attend his high school graduation, but he also surprised his graduating class by walking across the stage instead of being pushed in his wheelchair.
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